Archive for September, 2011

What is Print On Demand?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

“Print on Demand”, also known as “PoD”, is a new digital printing service. Its definition is literally printing a book one at a time, literally ‘on demand’ – as opposed to “batch printing”, where books are printed a few thousand at a time. The book is set up as a digital file, and when an order comes through on the computer system, the right file is selected by the computer and gives the instruction to produce a copy of the book. The process allows as few or as many books to be printed at any given time, and is now a widely used printing technology – publishers are slowly beginning to use the service on a larger scale.

The quality of Print On Demand books have been questioned by many authors and publishers, but over the past few years there has been a massive rise in the types of technology that deal with PoD books and the quality has also seen a rise as a result. There is still a feeling in some circles that the PoD books are poorer in quality, but this is no longer the case. The latest PoD machines, such as those produced by Hewlett-Packard and other established companies, are controlled completely by computer; and the bigger, professional PoD printers can produce up to four books a minute. Many Print On Demand services are open for use 24 hours, 7 days a week also, which cuts limitations on when printing can start and stop.

There are many advantages of the Print on Demand service, in many cases the advantages outweighing the disadvantages. One major advantage is that authors do not have to publish batches of their books, gambling in hope that their books will be a bestseller. If their book is a hit, more can be produced at the rate that they are selling – on the other hand, if the book is not as popular as first thought, production is easily stopped as it is started. Another advantage of this method is that due to the on-demand nature, storage is not an issue and books can go straight to bookshops, without taking up room (and may be even extra costs) to store the extra books. A third advantage is that the author does not have to collect the money from the supply chain for the copies that are sold, thus again saving a lot of money.

However, there are other factors that the author must consider. The author often has to take control of the Print on Demand service his or herself, which may be considered a drawback, due to a lot of work already been put into a book and having a publisher may increase the publicity of a book, and also having an expert in the area handle the marketing and finance. At the same time however, this method does give the author full flexibility in the production of the book. It also costs more to publish a book as a one off as opposed to in block numbers, but as mentioned before, if the book sells the author will save on storage prices and money in distribution and handling.

Print on demand is a revolutionary new service, which will serve as a gateway for many new authors to make their way into the literary world.

The History of the Printing Press

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

The history of digital printing is one that potentially starts back in the 15th century, where Johannes Gutenberg developed the first mechanical printing press in 1457. Whereas before, books and scripts were all written by hand, this mechanical process began the age of mass production of books, which in turn helped normalise the English language and shape it to accommodate whole countries. Before this point, every village had potentially their own way of communicating with their own people but no way of understanding others from another village; thus the invention of the mechanical printing press changing this norm forever. It also reduced dramatically the time taken to produce books, and brought culture and literature to the masses. This was the dawn of the era of printing and paved way for other techniques to be used later on.

In the 1880s, Alois Senfelder, who wished to find an inexpensive and easy way of publishing his plays, developed and introduced lithography to the printing world. The process included making a photographic stencil by photographing a page containing text, pictures or both; which in turn could be laid on the plate and exposed to a bright light source. After developing, the exposed parts of the plate would attract the greasy ink applied to the stencil, and the unexposed parts of the plate would attract water. The “inky” image could then be transferred onto the paper. This process was most famously used in Toulouse Lautrec’s posters of attractions and restaurants of Paris – for example, the Moulin Rouge. Until the 1950s, the idea of having raised type, applying ink to it and then squashing it onto paper to form an image, became known as letterpress printing and was to be the most successful and common form of printing until after this time.

After the 1950s, other ways of printing began to make their way onto the market. Web offset, which is still used for newspapers and mass produced pieces of writing, transfers the image onto a moving web of paper. This is more time efficient and cheaper than the process of letterpress printing, and the fastest machines can print around 17,000 impressions per hour. Gravure printing is also used for mass production, but usually for very long print runs of colour magazines, or packaging – a little more intricate than web offset printing. The process includes the image being dipped into a large copper cylinder, in a series of holes called cells. The larger the cell, the more ink it contains, resulting in more ink being placed on the paper (resulting in a darker colour).

In the last 20 years, printing has taken a dramatic turn, with the dawn of digital photography and printing. In 1990 Heidelberg GmbH, the world’s largest printing press manufacturer announced a new development, the Heidelberg GTO DI. This press was the first to image plates on the press itself. The Quickmaster DI replaced the previous machine in 1995, where the press configuration allows for four printing plates to be imaged on the press itself – which takes about fifteen minutes. It is similar to the lithography printing, except is much more cost effective and reduces time radically. This new process was called Computer-to-Press.

Nowadays, print on demand services, computer-to-plate and other innovations in the printing have all emerged onto the market. There is even the debate on whether in the near future, there will be a printer-less world due to the new technology coming onto the market every year. However, the printing press has opened up new doors throughout history and paved the way for wide access to information and communication worldwide.